Friday, December 23, 2016

Inspiration from the most unexpected source

What a year it has been! I never imagined when I embarked on this journey that it would take me down the path I have started to journey on.  Writing a book has always been a dream of mine, and to say I have finally realized that dream is a little unbelievable.  I have to admit. I have been hard on myself.  I know that I have reached so many people, but I feel like I should have reached more by now. Silly, I know. And yes, I have been told that by many. But, like I said, I am hard on myself.

My sister told me the a few days ago that even if I just touch one person, that is a life I have affected. It really hit home the other day when I received a package in the mail of some letters. Let me back up for a moment.  A couple of weeks ago, my dad and I presented at a teacher's workshop in Newark NJ. I had worked with a wonderful woman that helped write curriculum content and a lesson plan to accompany the book.  We were so excited and grateful when two schools in Newark requested the book and will be using it in the New Year as part of their lesson plan!

At one of the schools, the teacher had come back to her class and told her 6th grade students about meeting my dad and I. She then read them the introduction to the book, and gave them an assignment: Write a letter explaining why you want to read the book and why it is important to you.  Wow, is all I can say. These students are remarkable.  My dad and I were sent copies of these letters, some of them broke our heart!  These children spoke about wanting to meet my father so that they could perhaps learn some survival skills of their own. You see, they explained, they live in neighborhoods where people just shoot people, and they are always in fear for their lives. This is when you get your reality check, big time.

I really have no words for how this has made me feel. These children have inspired me. I am one of the lucky ones. I have heard horrible stories my whole life. I have learned about fear, and have heard about anti-Semitism. But the reality is that I have never really experienced true fear myself.  Yes, when I was younger, I had experienced a little anti-Semitism, but nothing like what I am learning more and more about through my work with the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the anti-BDS resolutions we are trying to pass in local municipalities.  Fear - of course we have all experienced fear in our lives. Fear of failure, fear of new situations, fear of roller coasters, and fear in strange places. But this fear is nothing compared to the fear day in and day out of death. I hope and pray that I, my family and you never truly experience this type of fear and emotion.  I can only hope that through my book, through my talks and through my efforts, we can try to make the world a better place, a safer place, and a more tolerant place.

My wish for all of you is for happiness in the New Year.  My father and grandmother have taught me to never look back, only look forward. So I choose to look forward with hope. 

From my family to yours -
A happy and healthy New Year to you all!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

It is about YOU!

I just returned from London a couple of days ago. Many of my friends told us we were the smartest ones in America - leaving the night of the election and getting out of here!  I did not plan it that way intentionally, it happened that my daughter had a few days off from school so we booked the trip.  London was amazing, we loved everything about it and I am so happy we went.  But there was a little part of me that did wish I was back home with everything going on. 

Our flight overseas did not have Wi-Fi, so my husband and I took turns waking up and refreshing the news feed that the plane did provide. We were just as shocked as so many people in the nation as the night unfolded.  Now for full disclosure, I am a registered Republican, however I never vote strictly by party line.  In this case, I did agree with much of what President Elect Trump said, however not all of it. And the things I did not agree with led me to personally not be able to vote for him. With all that said, however, he is going to be my President now, and I hope and pray that he will be one of the best we ever had.

I remember my father used to tell us how great this country was. He used to tell my sister and I that we had no idea how lucky we were. We lived in a country where freedom was sometimes taken for granted. Everyone had a right to vote and have their voices heard. Some chose not to exercise that right and many others made their feelings heard.  Things will not change overnight, and I can only hope that everyone recognizes this fact and gives President Elect Trump a chance. I know so many people that are so upset and have gone into a depression over this past week. To them I would say, you are entitled to your feelings just as others are entitled to theirs, however, do not loose sight of the bigger picture. You have the distinct honor of living in a country where anything is possible. It gave my father the ability to come here as a young man, with $5 in his pocket and not knowing a word of English, and through hard work and determination he made it and provided a better life for his children.

This is a country that has good people in it, don't for get that!  Since the election, two towns in NJ have already passed anti-BDS resolutions. They join Englewood, NJ and New York City which each passed their own anti-BDS resolutions a couple of months ago.  Last week, my town of Norwood passed the resolution unanimously, and then just last night, my hometown of Livingston did the same. In each town many people attended the meeting to show their town council their support, and many gave passionate speeches thanking the members for what they were doing. These brave people are standing up and saying we will not tolerate intolerance! We will not tolerate hate! We will not tolerate bigotry and anti-Semitism! At the end of the day, it is about what you do as a person, what you teach your children and how you live that matters.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Anti-Semitism exists but does not have to win

I had the pleasure this morning to speak at Temple Emanu-El in Closter NJ. What a wonderful and welcoming community!  After services, a smaller group of congregants met and had a question and answer session with my dad and I. I find that so many times, the conversation invariably turns to anti-Semitism. 

I was honored to meet other second generation, children of Holocaust survivors as well today. And as we all spoke, I found a common theme.  Our parents, the Holocaust survivors themselves, each seem to have emerged from this horrific time in history, and have gone on to lead wonderful lives, and each one of them does not live with hatred.  They usually walk around with a smile on their face, they are good to others, and the always look forward.  However, it is us, the children, that have a harder time learning this lesson.

Each one of us shared how we harbor more resentment, perhaps more unspoken "hatred" for what happened to our parents.  I know as a parent, when my child skins her knee, I feel the pain, but the truth is that our children feel our pain as well.  Yes anti-Semitism exists. It always has, and it probably always will, however, each one of us has to try to learn the lessons of our parents.  We must look forward, we must try to leave the world a better place.  My dad said today, these people will always hate us, but we must fight back with kindness. We can not become the people the accuse us to be. 

This past week, I witnessed and was part of an amazing evening in my little town of Norwood NJ.  A few weeks ago I had coffee with Michael Cohen. Michael is the Eastern Regional Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He is also a councilman in the city of Englewood, NJ.  He was telling me about how NYC and Englewood had passed an anti-BDS resolution, condemning BDS (the anti-Semetic movement called Boycott Disinvestment and Sanctions against Israel).  The goal being that if we can get every individual municipality to join their voices and stand up to intolerance and hatred, perhaps we can make a difference.  I immediately contacted our town council and the mayor agreed to put the resolution on the agenda for their work session this past Wednesday evening. 

There were a few of us that attended the meeting to show support to the council for their stance and approval of this resolution.  What I did not expect were the eloquent and heartfelt comments that each council member said.  This is not a very Jewish town I live in, and was hoping at best to just not have any opposition and that everyone would vote yes.  I never imagined that I would witness such understanding and acceptance. It made me so proud to be a Norwood resident, and so happy that as a Jew I actually truly understood why I feel so comfortable in my small town. Because I am surrounded by good people, people that understand all of our inalienable rights, including freedom of religion.  They spoke about how Israel is a democracy, one of the United States greatest allies, and how they have a right to defend themselves against terrorism.  What an evening!

I will leave you with how I ended my talk today.  My dad put it best – we can not live with hate in our hearts. No, we will probably never forgive and can not forget, but we have to learn and look forward.  Make sure we pass those teaching on. We can not allow the seed of hatred of any kind grow. There are good people in this world, there really are. And if we can get those voices to rise louder than the ones that spread violence and hatred, then we can try to make this world a better place, one where our children and descendants can hopefully live peacefully.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Happy New Year!

New Year - what liberating words. Those two little words bring such new hope, a clean slate, a new beginning.  For most, January 1st is the clean slate day.  At work, we joke about how we have to do it all over again, ugh! I know so many friends that say they will start their "diet" on January 2nd, or they will start going to the gym and getting healthier.  But for the Jewish New Year, it's not the same feeling. It is as if New Year holds a different meaning, this one is for the soul.

We go to synagogue, ask for forgiveness, and hope to be put in the book of life. What does all of that mean? For many, it is a time to reflect inward. I have to be honest, I don't attend synagogue on a regular basis.  For me I go at the very least twice a year, during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. In between, if there is a B'Nai Mitzvah to attend, or a special occasion, we will attend services.  However, I must say, during this time each fall, the holidays cause me to start reflecting on the year that just passed. 

This year has been a whirlwind and the one thing that sticks out in my mind is my individual awareness and recognition of how far we have come as Jewish people, yet how far we still have to go.  I have recently been reading so much and learning so much more about the BDS movement, the anti-Semitism that still rocks our world, and then all the violence that has ripped our country apart in the past year. It saddens me that this is the world we live in, the one I have brought my children up in. However, amongst all this sadness and violence, there are still good stories that emerge.  The young black child that went to his local police department last week to give the police officers "free hugs", the Ohio police officer that drove the young man over a hundred miles to his family after his sister was killed in a car accident, the passing of anti-BDS measures across New Jersey, these are the stories that bring me hope.

I do find it hard sometimes to feel hope, I think we all do when we are faced with tragedy after tragedy. But then we must remind ourselves, and each other about the goodness that exists.  People can be good if we just give them a chance. If we don't jump to conclusions, if we treat each other with respect, if we tolerate, and hopefully one day accept each of our differences, we can be the catalyst to making this country and world a wonderful place to bring our children into and raise a family. At the end of the day that is all I really want: I want my children to be happy and feel safe. May this New Year bring you peace, health and happiness. From my family to yours, Shana Tova.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Reflection on 9/11

Words can not truly describe the emotions that I experienced this past weekend. September 11th is such a solemn day in history. It is almost impossible, especially if you live in the NYC area, to wake up on September 11th and not immediately be brought back to that day in 2001.

So many of us were affected that day. Some more than others, but around the NYC area, we were all touched somehow.  Knowing that I was being honored at Yankee Stadium made the day exciting, but yet it was clouded by the events that occurred 15 years ago.  On top of that, to be presented with the Heroes for Tolerance award made it just that much more emotional. There was almost a guilt that I woke up with for being excited for the day.

First, in the "private suite" amongst our "closest 80 friends" I was honored to stand next to Ira Goldstein and Lisa Wisotsky and accept our awards. After the ceremony and brief words from dignitaries and leadership from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, we were escorted down to the field to be announced in front of the entire stadium. 

Wow, is all I can say.

Forget the fact that we were standing on the field at Yankee Stadium, forget about the fact that we were projected on the jumbo screen and forget about the fact that it was televised live on the YES network, the most amazing part of the whole experience was the fact that I was even there. It was beyond humbling to be included amongst the real heroes of 9/11. A group of people in the military were on the field with us. We had the extreme honor of meeting them and even taking some pictures. When they asked us what we were representing, I have to admit I got a little embarrassed. I told them that we had been given the Heroes of Tolerance award from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, but then I quickly added that the true heroes of the day were them.  Without them and without their selfless act of serving our country none of us would be able to be here.  I then got to see NYC finest walk on the field, police officers that risk their lives everyday to protect each and every one of us.  These are my heroes.

After the day, on my way home, I got a text from one of my closest friends that attended the ceremony.  9/11 has always been a hard day for her to get through.  I will share one small part of the text that moved me to tears:

"I will always remember 9/11 for what happened in 2001, but now it will mark the day that my friend was able to inspire the world."

People experience tragedy everyday. People experience hatred every day. My only hope out of all of this is that the message of tolerance will slowly begin to heal the wounds that have been cast, and that, hopefully, we can start to affect change, one person at a time.

#Together we will #NeverForget!!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Thank you to The Simon Wiesenthal Center!

"An important work. Ann Arnold's effort to both tell their tale of her family's survival during the Holocaust while being a part of encouraging the next generation to embrace tolerance is inspiring."
-Michael Cohen, Eastern Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center

Wow, is all I can say.  If you follow me on Facebook and have read my previous post, then you know how much I LOVE reading the reviews! It truly warms my heart and encourages me to continue to spread the message of Never Forget.

At the beginning of the summer, I had the pleasure to meet Michael Cohen, the Eastern Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.  For those that do not know who Simon Wiesenthal was, or what the center does, let me recap. Simon Wiesenthal was a survivor of the Nazi death camps who dedicated his life to hunting and bringing Nazi's to justice for their crimes and documenting the crimes of the Holocaust. The Simon Wiesenthal Center was founded in 1977 and is a "global human rights organization researching the Holocaust and hate in a historic and contemporary context. The Center confronts anti-Semitism, hate and terrorism, promotes human rights and dignity, stands with Israel, defends the safety of Jews worldwide, and teaches the lessons of the Holocaust for future generations. With a constituency of over 400,000 households in the United States, it is accredited as an NGO at international organizations including the United Nations, UNESCO, OSCE, Organization of American States (OAS), the Latin American Parliament (PARLATINO) and the Council of Europe. (". As you can imagine, this was quite an important meeting for me! 

Michael and I met at a Starbucks, and what I thought would be a quick coffee meeting, turned into such a wonderful two hour conversation. I learned so many great things that the Center is doing, was inspired by how it was started by Rabbi Hier and was motivated to keep speaking and spreading the word of Tolerance, Acceptance and Respect.  However, I was completely shocked, and never expected what came next. 

On September 11th at Yankee Stadium, the Simon Wiesenthal Center is having an event where they are honoring 3 people with the first Annual Heroes of Tolerance Award, and yep - you got it, they asked me to be one of the honorees!! As my kids say - OMG!!! I was floored, shocked, and deeply honored. It was beyond my wildest dreams that an organization like this would actually recognize what I am doing and trying to accomplish. 

I have to admit that over the last few weeks I have been reading more and more articles about the anti-Semitism that exist not only in this country, on college campuses and communities nearby, but also all around the world. I saw a video last week about college students in PA that had no idea what the Holocaust was, or even who Hitler was. How could that be?? I was in shock and it really threw me for a loop.  The other day I was quite down on everything. What am I doing? Will I actually be able to make a difference? Am I fighting a loosing battle? It was not a very good day.  I saw my dad the next day and shared my feeling with him. I asked him how he did it? Did he ever feel and live with the gripping fear that it will never end and that they will get us eventually? How did he go on each day with hope and a smile? His answer was quite simple - he was completely not shocked about the ignorance of these students - he actually said he would have been shocked if they knew anything. He told me how this is life, we will never change everyone nor should we expect to. We just have to keep spreading the message, keep doing what we are doing and keep putting one foot in front of the other and move forward.  My husband said it best - he told me to concentrate on affecting one person at a time.

So that is what I am going to do. I worked with a teacher over the summer and we wrote up a lesson plan to accompany the book for grades 8/9. The goal being that we know that the way we can affect change is by starting at the beginning, with our Youth.

I want to thank Michael Cohen, Rabbi Hier and Rabbi May (whom I had the pleasure of meeting a few weeks ago) and the Simon Wiesenthal Center for bestowing this honor on me. I hope I can live up to the award and continue to spread the message of hope and get people to truly understand that by being a good person and by respecting one another we can overcome the hate, bigotry and anti-Semitism that exist.

This sums it up - we will keep doing what we are doing, and I hope he keeps smiling!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Who would have thought?

When I first embarked on the journey to write the book, I never really thought about not only where it would lead me and how it would affect people, but also about the new people I would meet along the way.  One of the most gratifying parts is experiencing and hearing from people how they have been affected by what they have read. I  never would have imagined that this book could influence people the way it has. 

OK I have to admit, one of my morning rituals has become going online and checking Amazon to see if anyone wrote any new reviews, then I check for the same reason. Pathetic, I know! But, again I will admit, my day brightens when I see a new review.  Usually, the reviews are so kind and heartwarming.  I love hearing how people have really connected with the story, and how it has made some really start understanding what perserverance truly is, and what heroism looks like.  The other day, however, I read the following review - and I was shocked, I actually teared up:

By Bill on July 10, 2016
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
After reading over 70 memoirs of holocaust survivors I continue to be amazed at the cruelty we can bestow on one another. But within this mix of terrible hatred - every so often miraculous inspiration emerges.

This book makes me want t be a better man - and the unbelievable tenacity of Sala makes me ashamed of my petty concerns and bickering.

Five stars ... You won't want to put it down.

God bless the family and the poor grandfather.

Wow - is all I can say. To know that something you wrote could affect someone that deeply elicited an emotion I can not quite describe.  This was the purpose; to make people feel, to make them connect, to make them think.  I always knew deep down that the story could accomplish that, but to see it actually happen makes me so grateful. Grateful that so many of you have taken the time to read it, and so grateful that you have taken the time to tell others to do the same.

Perhaps it is true that we can change the world, one step at a time. Perhaps in my lifetime I will be blessed to see anti-Semitism diminish, racism diminish and tolerance prevail.  We have a long way to go, but if we continue to believe in the goodness that exists within us all we can accomplish greatness.

During this journey, I had the pleasure to get connected with Marcin Zarod, a teacher from Tarnow, Poland. He not only read the book, but was so taken by it, that he suggested his students should all read it as well.  He recently took a trip to Israel with his family, and by coincidence my father was there the same time visiting his sister.  They all had a chance to meet up and I heard it was a wonderful day. 

Thank you to Bill for letting me know how much the book affected you; Thank you Marcin for recommending the book to others; and thank you all for your tremendous support.  Together we will Never Forget.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Let's Be Thankful this 4th!

Happy 4th of July weekend!  This weekend we are spending time with family and friends. We are going to barbecue some hotdogs and hamburgers, drink some margaritas, and have some fun. How lucky are we??

Every time there is a national holiday I always end up reflecting. I think about how thankful I am that I have the ability to live in this GREAT country, how thankful I am that there are men and women that truly know the meaning of sacrifice who are willing to die for me to have this freedom, and how thankful I am that my family survived one of the ugliest chapters in history and made it to America.

So many times we take for granted what we have and what we do. Take a moment this weekend and realize how lucky we are, try to be nice to the person on line at the supermarket, and appreciate your family. Happy 4th everyone!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Reconnecting with family!

Family - what a all encompassing word.  So many times life just happens and we fall out of touch with our family. The nicest thing though, are those opportunities that allow us to reconnect.  You never know when those opportunities may arise, but the key is knowing that you can create them yourself.

When I published the book, so much of my family emailed and texted me their support. It was so heartwarming to hear from so many relatives, and those that perhaps I had not connected with in a while. It made me remember that we are all part of a bigger whole. 

When I had my book launch in May, I was overwhelmed by the turnout. My father's cousins came from near and far to support the two of us. It was so amazing!  But I have to admit, I am one of the lucky ones! I was very lucky to not only have an amazing family on my side, but also to have married into such a wonderful one! My in-laws all treat me as their own, including my husband's sisters. I was fortunate enough to be able to gain more siblings and two more parents.  They all came out for the event, but one of the best parts was that my husband's first cousin and his wife came out as well.  We realized it had been so long since we all had gone out. You know what happens - kids, work, life!  But we decided to do something about it, we put a date down, and last night we all reconnected!
It was so great to get to know them again, catch up, and for all of us to hang out. (yes that's us taking a selfie at dinner last night!)

Why do I share this with you? Because the truth is opportunities are what we make of them. We must put ourselves out there. If you have not spoke to your relative in a while, stop reading this and go text, email or call them. Trust me they will be so happy to hear from you!  These connections we have run deep and many times we just forget. It is so special to have these connections, make sure you keep them alive!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Try not to sweat the small stuff!

So I just returned from my annual Las Vegas Trade Shows trip.  Each year I leave on Memorial Day and spend about 8 days in Las Vegas attending a multitude of trade shows during "Jewelry Week".  Yes it is very tiring and long, but the best part of the week is the fact that I get the chance to see so many people that I have known for so many years, all in one place.  Many of them I am fortunate enough to call my friends. 

This year was extra special. So many people came up to me and acknowledged my new book, Together: A Journey for Survival.  I am so grateful for all the outpouring of support and accolades.  It is actually quite overwhelming.  So many of these people have known my dad, some for close to 50 years, and yet so many of them truly had no idea what he had gone through and where he had come from.

The lesson here is, how well do we really know those around us?  Do we judge them or make conclusions about them without knowing all the facts? In my dad's case, he is always so joyful and always has this energetic smile that is so infectious. Everyone has such a great respect for him and admires his positive attitude.  Who would have thought that this same man endured a nightmare that most of us could not even dream of?

How can we learn from him to make ourselves a better person?  I think the next time we start sweating the small stuff we should pause and just think about what we are getting so angry or stressed about.  Take a breath, walk away for a moment, and just reassess the situation and approach it again with a different attitude.  Most things are not life and death, although they may feel like it at the time.  All of us have bad days, even my dad, but remember, tomorrow is a new day, with new beginnings and new hope. Embrace the life we have been given and let's all try to be a little nicer to one another and treat each other with just a little more respect.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Take a moment to say "Thank You"

Memorial Day weekend is upon us. As families all over start preparing for barbeques, parades and parties, I want to take a moment to say "Thank You". 

Those two little words are so over used and I hope their meaning is not lost on those that receive the accolades.  Thank you to the men and women that sacrifice themselves, sacrifice their families and allow us to enjoy all those hamburgers and hotdogs this weekend!  Thank you to the countless soldiers that fought wars in the past for our freedom and for the freedom of others. And Thank You to those soldiers that liberated my family and allowed them to survive, and ultimately allowed me to be born.

If it was not for the unselfishness of these brave souls, people like me, my sister, and my children would not be here today. Who knows how much longer my father would have been able to survive during the Holocaust. How much longer he would have been able to hide from the monsters that wanted to make sure his existence was wiped from the face of the earth. Thankfully, we will never have to find out.

So in simple terms - Thank you for your service

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


When my dad came to America, he was sponsored by my grandmother's family. She had three sisters and a brother that had immigrated to America way before World War II started.  She had not even met her oldest sister until she came to visit my dad for the first time!  I can't even imagine.  When the war was over, her siblings here in America wrote letters back to Brzostek, hoping to find a relative that survived.  That is how they reconnected.  My grandmother was the only one to survive from the entire family in Poland.

After the war ended, my grandmother, father and aunt stayed in Poland and lived there until 1957. At that time they emigrated to Israel. At the time they left Poland, my dad was enrolled and attending law school, and my aunt was going to dental school to become an orthodontist.  The news that they were leaving Poland was a shock and the entire exit happened very quickly. They were only given about a week notice.  Poland was becoming increasingly dangerous for Jewish families.

When they got to Israel there was not enough money to send my dad back to law school and my aunt back to medical school.  My father told his sister to pursue her career and he started to search for a "job".  He worked for a while in a factory that manufactured ammunition. The reality was that he was not happy, and my grandmother saw it. The opportunities in Israel to make a living were not great. She finally convinced and basically "pushed" my dad to get on a boat and go to America.

Coming here must have been frightening. He knew no one, had never met any of his relatives, did not speak English and had only $5 in his pocket.  When he got off the boat, he was greeted by one of his cousins, who recognized him from a photo my grandmother had sent. The problem was, he only spoke English. Somehow they got by, and when my dad got to his aunt and uncle's house, luckily they spoke Yiddush, so finally my dad could communicate with them.  He quickly enrolled in a class to learn English and he was on his way.

Our family here really took him in. He had a huge family, lots of first cousins and he quickly became close with them all.  I remember growing up always surrounded by my dad's cousins and their kids.  We are all very close, and even though we now live all over the country there is a special bond we all share. Most people are so close to their first cousins, but after that their more distant relatives are just that - distant. For me, my second cousins are as close as my first. My dad's first cousins became his adopted American siblings. But the fact is, most of them really did not know or understand what he went through during the war.

Writing this book is for them as much as it is for my children. This is their legacy, their family, their history. I have heard from so many of my cousins, heard how excited they are to read it, and after they read it, how touched and moved they were. I am very close with one of my cousins, and his mom, Phyllis is one of my dad's first cousins who lives close by. Tomorrow is my launch party and first book signing. She insisted that she must attend the event.  And then I got a call from one of my cousins, Amy.

Her dad, Billy, and my dad became very close, again another first cousin. Unfortunately, as happens, Billy is not doing well, Parkinson's is a horrible disease. They live in Altoona, PA, which is probably close to 5 hours away or more.  Billy wants to be here to support my dad, to see him again, and maybe for the last time, and to support me. I am blown away. They are making the long drive tomorrow to come out for the book signing. Words can not express how much this means to not only me, but my dad.

To go through what he did, to feel so alone in the world for so long. To think you are the only Jewish person left alive. These are feelings I can not even begin to imagine. But then, to find family, to  know they are here for you, and to know they genuinely share your joy and happiness and are happy themselves for you, is one of the most moving and important lessons.  Family is everything, Sala proved that in her determination to keep her family together. Our family has stayed together.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


It has been almost a week since I launched the book Together. Wow what a week! I am overwhelmed by the amount of support and emails I have been getting.  I have always known, and even wrote about the charisma and magnetism my father has. Going through this journey has just reinforced how many people admire, respect and love him.

So what is the take away from this all?  I see it as quite simple. Here is a man, who experienced the worst kind of hatred, discrimination and terror, that most of us can not even imagine. Yet he is kind, giving and always has a smile on his face. I am not sure how he does it, to be honest. Growing up as a child of a holocaust survivor, it is almost like a badge that I wear, and I truly don't think many others can understand it, unless they too have experienced it. It is the little things that you start to notice. Like, why did we never have a dog growing up? My dad does not like dogs at all!  I realized in my adult years, this is probably because the Nazi's used dogs when hunting for people, and somewhere in his subconscious, he associates these two.  I really don't think he even realizes it himself!

But despite it all, he never rose his voice or yelled at us, he always treats people with respect and his honor and word are the most important things to him.  He is an inspiration and I hope we all can learn that we can overcome the obstacles and negativity in our lives to accomplish good and be good people.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Launch Day!

Launch day is here!  I can't believe it.  OK, so I admit, I have not slept much, the nerves are on end, but I am so excited to start having everyone read it!  What a journey this has been.  I never realized that when I decided to "write a book" it would take me down this path.

First, I have met some amazing people.  I have always had mentors in my life. People that have inspired me, driven me, and supported me.  It is such a blessing to have found a new mentor, and a new avenue.  As exhausting as this has been, the joy I have gotten from the look in my dad's eyes that this is finally happening, is something that is beyond words.

Over the last few days, I have been interviewed by a few local newspapers and publications.  A couple of common question are:
Why did you write this book now?
What was the hardest part for you?
What do you want people to take away from reading the book?

Why did I write it now?  Many of you have heard about my experience when I went back to Poland in 2009 for the re-consecration of the Jewish cemetery in Brzostek, my dad's hometown.  The goodness and kindness I saw in those villagers inspired me to get the story down, hence the beginning of my blog.

What was the hardest part?  We all have parents and grandparents, and many times, that is where we start and end in defining them as people.  One of the hardest parts was the realization that my grandmother was not just my joyful, mushy, cute Baba Sala. She was a woman. A woman that had to endure things that I probably will never really truly understand or fathom or quite honestly know. It was hard opening up my inner self to those feelings, and putting myself into her head. I could not truly do it.  And my dad.  Hey, he's my dad!  But to think that he was not just robbed of his childhood, but of his innocence, made me look at him and think, how is he such a great guy and not bitter? He amazes and astounds me everyday.

What do I want people to take away  from reading the book?  It is actually quite simple.

There are good people in this world, truly good people.  With all the ugliness around us:violence, hatred, blood - to know that goodness exists is powerful.  To understand that TOLERANCE is key. My dad once told us the following and I will leave it at this:

"I am a survivor of the holocaust however I am from a generation that is fading away. In a short period of time this generation will not be around anymore. However the message that we have has to survive future generations and it makes no difference who you are, a Jew, Christian, Muslim or any combination. It may happen to you, it depends who is in power at the moment. Don't allow it and be aware of what is happening in the world and don't turn a blind eye and think it can't happen here or again. "

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Power of our Youth

Tonight starts Passover. I think we all sometimes take for granted our families and these holidays.  Yesterday, my sister called me and told me about the amazing day my dad and her had.   My dad participated in the Metro West Holocaust Day. About 100+ high school students visited Metro West, in NJ, and toured their Holocaust Exhibit. Then, the students broke up into about 10 per table and had lunch with a survivor and got to hear their story. After lunch, one student was selected from each table and had the opportunity to get up and tell those assembled a little bit about their survivor. 

The young gentlemen that got up from my dad's table was a senior. He walked up to the podium, and without any notes, began to speak. He started with "I had the privlige of meeting Mark and learning about his amazing mother..." He then went on to recount my father's story, just from hearing it once!  Then he did something amazing. He put his hand over his heart, and spoke to the students directly to the student there. He reminded them that they all had mothers, most of the time they probably did not listen to their moms, gave them slack and talked back. But that they all had to remember, if faced with a life threatening situation, each one of their moms would do anything to make sure they survived. He asked each person there to go home that night and hug their mom, and tell her they love her. My dad and sister were so moved.

I was in tears when my sister told me this story. Make sure you tell your loved ones you love them, just because you can.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Together - A Journey for Survival

First, I want to thank all of you for following me, and reading my blog. It has been a journey, and the positive feedback has been overwhelming. It is now 5 years later and I still have people come up to me out of the blue to tell me how much they enjoyed reading the story. The next question, is when will I do more? When will I write the book?

Well, last year I decided it was time. I never really thought of myself as a writer. I know that is a controversial statement, but true. However, to see the affect I have had on people of all ages, how much the story of my grandmother inspired so many, I made the decision it was time to turn it into a book.

What a journey it has been. I thought I knew all the stories, oh how wrong I was... The amount of new information, and stories I learned through this process is astounding. And then I went back to my aunt, and got even more. It was not always easy. How do I explain this? Imagine your family. Your parents, your grandparents. How do you think of them? To me, it is just, you know, my dad, my Baba Sala. I don't think I ever really thought of them as people. People with a history, with a life they led way before I was even a dream. Of course I had heard some of the stories growing up, but they were just that, a story. It was not until I started going through the process of writing this book, that I had to face the reality that this was more than just a story. These were more than just characters I had heard about. This was real life. What happened during those dark cold nights? What were they thinking? What did they really have to do? How could they have truly survived?  These were all thoughts, and I had many more, that I grappled with every day. I have to admit, I have read this book probably close to a 100 times already. And each time I cry. It's not like I don't know the ending. I think it is because I start to put my self in their shoes, and it crushes me. Could I be as brave as them? Could I do what they did? I truly don't know.

I thought it only appropriate that the release date for my book, Together - A Journey for Survival, should be May 5, 2016: Holocaust Remembrance Day. Stay tuned... #Together the book, coming soon!